Vural Ak, Chairman of the Executive Board of Intercity:


“Flawless” was how Vural Ak, Chairman of the Executive Board of Intercity, described the Formula 1™ that Intercity hosted at Istanbul Park on the 13th, 14th, and 15th November. Formula 1™ is, of course, the world’s leading motorsports event. “After a gap of nine years,” commented Ak, “in a very short space of time we managed to prepare an event that reflected extremely well on our country. We created an event that was followed by more people than any other event in 2020 and that had an enormous impact. FIA confirmed that it was awarding our circuit a Grade 1 licence for a further three years, this licence being granted to only the very best tracks.”

Following the Formula 1™ race that took place on 13th, 14th, and 15th November at Intercity Istanbul Park, Vural Ak, Chairman of the Executive Board of Intercity, held a press conference where he shared details about all aspects of the event.

On 29th December 2016, Intercity was granted authorisation by the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, and for around four years it strove to ensure that the Formula 1 e™vent would come to Turkey, to Istanbul. Ak noted how happy everyone was that Intercity had been able to reunite Formula 1™ and Turkey after a gap of nine years and that the event passed without even a single hitch.


Ak emphasised the work that had gone in to getting the track ready from the very moment that it was announced that Intercity Istanbul Park had been added to the motorsports events calendar for 2020. “After we shared the good news on 25th August, drivers, teams, and motorsports enthusiasts in Turkey and abroad could barely control their excitement that races were returning to Intercity Istanbul Park, one of the world’s greatest circuits. Tickets for the event were cheaper than those for any other Formula 1™ race, and in just two days we sold no less than 80,000 tickets. This showed how much we had missed Formula 1™. However, because of the pandemic the decision was taken to hold the race without any spectators. As quickly as possible, we refunded all ticket sales. The fact that the race would take place without any spectators and that everyone would be watching it on screens actually made the event an even bigger challenge. Over a period of just three months, hundreds of people worked 24/7 so that one of the world’s greatest events could take place, and in the end, we achieved something amazing. We can be very satisfied that we were able to run the event using our own resources, without having to ask the state for a single lira in funding.”


Vural Ak, Chairman of the Executive Board of Intercity, pointed out that, after it was announced that Formula 1™ races would be coming to Istanbul, he commented on numerous occasions on the wonderful, unparalleled quality of the circuit. Ak also recalled that, both during and after the event, drivers, team directors and above all managers of Formula 1™ were extremely complimentary about the track. He repeated his earlier prediction that, if it rained at the time of the Formula 1™ race in Intercity Istanbul Park, the event would turn out to be the highlight of the season. Ak explained: “There hadn’t been any racing on our circuit for nine years, and teams had practically no information about the track, let alone about how its conditions would affect various types of vehicles. For several years, we had managed to keep the circuit’s asphalt in good condition, but we noticed that the track had started to crumble, posing a danger to open racing cars. We also believed that this weathering was particularly risky for the new generation of Formula 1™ cars because of the high downforce that they create, and we were unwilling to face this risk at such a high-profile event. We consulted with representatives from FIA and Formula 1™, who approved our plans, so we decided to replace the asphalt on the track. We arranged this very quickly and, with the backing of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, completed the renewal in no time at all. Throughout the renewal process, the circuit’s world-famous architect Herman Tilke and his team assisted us on-site, so we were able to monitor and manage every phase of the process with great precision. Once the asphalt had been replaced, and up until the first day of the races, Formula 1™ representatives carried out inspections and gave their approval. Although drivers did have difficulties coping with the rain, what we had predicted from day one came true, and we had the opportunity to watch a fantastic race, which really put the talents of drivers and the strategies of teams to the test. Everyone was mesmerised by our track. All the official representatives, drivers and team directors who made their views felt after the race emphasised how much they were looking forward to competing again at Intercity Istanbul Park in years to come. Some examples are as follows:

Formula 1™ Sporting Director, Ross Brawn: “The Turkish government and the management of Intercity Istanbul Park worked wonders in preparing the track to host what turned out to be a truly sensational race. Given the circumstances of the pandemic, it was a huge achievement to get the track ready so quickly. Drivers should remember that the conditions of the track were the same for all competitors and that this was a race. The characteristics of the track gave drivers the opportunity to show off their talents.”

FIA Formula 1™ Race Director, Michael Masi: , “Considerable changes were made to the Istanbul Park track, because the last time the track had been approved by FIA was back in 2017. A lot of work needed to be done on the track to make it ready for the Turkish Grand Prix. But this work was carried out, thanks to the support of the Turkish government and the circuit’s owners. It is really commendable that the preparations were made in such a short space of time.”

Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff: “We’re delighted to be back in Istanbul. Everyone’s very hospitable and the track’s wonderful. I hope we’ll come back.”

Mercedes Team Driver Lewis Hamilton, who won the seventh championship of his career: “There should be more events in the schedule like the race in Turkey. I’d like to see more weekends like this one. We should have to deal with trickier conditions because that increases the opportunities for drivers. I showed everyone what kind of a driver I am. It wasn’t the car that won the race, it was me!”

Ferrari Team Principal, Mattia Binotto: “The top race of the year occurred when I was at home.”


Vural Ak pointed out that Intercity Istanbul Park had been supported by President Erdoğan. “This success was the fruit of a large team and a lot of teamwork. Once our president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had determined that the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey would be a patron of the event, all the institutions sprang into action. In the replacement of the asphalt, we were greatly helped by the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Adil Karaismailoğlu, and his Ministry, while the Governor of Istanbul, Ali Yerlikaya, was responsible for coordinating the efforts of all the various public bodies who assisted us. The Istanbul Police Department and the Gendarmerie Commandership worked non-stop. Following the instructions of the mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Ekrem İmamoğlu, teams and institutions linked to the Municipality came to our assistance. Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, graced us with his presence when he came to award cups to the winners on the day of the race. I would like to thank the leadership of FIA and Formula 1™, as well as the President of the Executive Board, Chase Carey, for their support for the race from day one, support that has been both professional and sincere. The event was greatly enriched by Murat Karahan’s singing of the Turkish national anthem, Mr. Karahan being both a world-renowned artist and the General Director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet. Equally memorable was the incredible display by the F16 aircraft of Solo Türk.


Vural Ak pointed out that 5,000 foreign guests came to Istanbul for the event that took place last week at Intercity Istanbul Park. He went on to say, “As a result of the pandemic, sporting events were postponed across the world. EURO 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were unable to take place. This made sports enthusiasts follow the Formula 1™ races all the more eagerly. Throughout last week, Istanbul was in the spotlight of the world’s media and was consistently one of the topics most frequently posted about on social media. For a long time, Istanbul has needed this kind of publicity and now it found itself at the centre of millions of people’s attention. The fact that the race was so exciting and enjoyable was what made posts on it go through the roof.”


Following such a marvellous achievement, stressed Vural Ak, Chairman of the Executive Board of Intercity, it was understandable that talks began straight away on holding races again in Turkey in the years to come. “We were happy to host Chase Carey, CEO of Formula 1™ and President of the Executive Board, for a weekend in Istanbul. He was quite amazed by how enthusiastic people in Turkey and Istanbul were about the Formula 1™ races. Talks are underway about having Istanbul incorporated into the race schedule, not just for one year but for several years ahead. Indeed, the three-year licence that we were granted by FIA proves that our circuit can be prepared for any eventuality at the shortest notice.”

Sources of the comments by Formula 1 representatives, team owners, and drivers.